Missouri will cut ’06 funding for Lindbergh School District

By LAURA UHLMANSIEK

State lawmakers have dealt a blow to the Lindbergh School District as a newly approved funding formula will cut $105,000 in state aid to the district for the 2006-2007 school year.

Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane recently told the Board of Education that under the state’s new foundation formula, 20 of the state’s 534 school districts will see a cut in state funding. Lindbergh is the third highest in loss of funds.

“The title of my presentation is: ‘No help for Lindbergh,'” Lanane told board members earlier this month. “I don’t know how to say it any plainer.”

The funding reduction will not affect this school year’s budget, and the board has projected the state will provide Lindbergh with $2.964 million for the 2005-2006 school year. Once the new formula is applied for the following school year, the district will receive an estimated $2.859 million.

The five districts considered benchmarks for the Lindbergh school district, which has a average daily attendance of 4,519, also did not fare well with the new state formula.

The Pattonville School District will receive nearly $62,000 less than this year, while the Parkway School District will receive $252,000 less for the 2006-2007 school year.

The Kirkwood School District will gain $94,000 for the 2006-2007 school year, as will the Mehlville School District, which is projected to receive an additional $247,000. The Rockwood School District will receive $686,000 more next year.

Several other area districts will see cuts in funding for the 2006-2007 school year. The Clayton School District will see a net loss of $15,000. The Brentwood School District will see $4,000 in cuts. The Ladue School District will see $107,000 in cuts.

Other local districts were more fortunate. The Normandy School District will receive $1.3 million more for the 2006-2007 school year The Fort Zumwalt School District and the Hazelwood School District both are projected to receive an additional $1.6 million. The Francis Howell School District will receive $1.2 million.

Lanane said one of the large factors that reduced the district’s funding was its high assessed valuation and its hold-harmless status. As a hold-harmless district, Lindbergh’s state funding has been frozen at 1993 levels.

“The theory is because we have more property value per student, we can raise money — one cent increases in the levy is a lot more money here than somewhere else where they have very low assessed value, and one cent may only be — one cent here raises $100,000,” he said. “One cent in some places in the state may not even raise $10,000. So, the problem we have with that is, we think some of their (residential) assessments are wrong, and they’re way too low and they are made to look poorer than they really are.”

Both the state and the federal government are putting more pressure on the school district to obtain funding from local sources, Lanane said, noting that if the district wants to maintain the same level of services “the only place that we have that we can raise additional funds is through a vote of the local voters.”

Lindbergh already is largely funded by local sources. Ninety percent of the district’s revenue will come from local sources and seven percent from the state for the district’s 2005-2006 budget.

“What the state is doing is transferring the tax burden from the state to the local tax payers,” Lanane said. “I don’t know if the government is intending that or not, but that’s exactly what they’re doing.”

Lanane said future of the district under this formula is bleak.

“If you saw the seven-year projection, you’d flip. Because that’s ($105,000) just the money for the first year, by the end of seven years, some of the school districts will, on an annual basis, will be making $3 million more than they currently are,” he said. “And then ours, we might be at $160,000 more … seven years from now than what we’re receiving now. Well, wow, we would have had more growth than that under the old formula.”

The Lindbergh School District has joined nearly 70 other districts to form the Coalition to Fund Excellent Schools and intervene in a lawsuit asking the courts to declare the old funding formula inadequate and unconstitutional. Lanane said the coalition plans to pursue the lawsuit and is amending it to address the newly approved formula.

“I think the CFES lawsuit is something we will need to pursue because assessments is one of the key points in that lawsuit, and I simply think this is unacceptable to Lindbergh taxpayers, and I know it’s unacceptable to Lindbergh students. There is no help for Lindbergh,” Lanane said.